Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Typewriter Restoration: It's a Messy Business Pt. 2

This is the second part of a multi-part post about the restoration of an Underwood Universal.

The last time I wrote about this Underwood I felt like it might just be an easy job. I could clean it and be on my way, but the typewriter gods do not look favorably on my enterprise. After looking a little closer I noticed that something was very much amiss with the 3/4 and slash key. You can see the problem below:

I don't know what happened but the entire coordinating linkage is not here. As you can see from this picture it causes the keytop to be "out of alignment" with the other keys. By "out of alignment" I mean completely akimbo. Moreover, the spring is missing on this lever. I have some spares and that will be a fun repair.

In addition to the dodgy 3/4 and slash key, the 'B' is in a similar state, but not nearly as extreme as the former. This linkage is missing a spring as well. We'll get into that repair very soon.

The rubber feet are missing. This is going to be a big problem. The rubber feet on the front had a hole through the center to allow for corresponding pegs to hold the front of the machine with friction. The rear feet seem fairly normal. I will have to find (or craft) something that would work.

This Universal features the Champion keytops that were more comfortable than the glass key variety. Some of the lettering is pretty grimy, and some of it is gone entirely. I would like to fill in the missing paint and probably replace the white lettering on all the keys.

Finally, I look at these decals and I can see how significantly they have flaked. The one on the paper table is particularly bad, but the touch control Touch Tuning is pretty crummy. I can tough them up using a gold pen, but I am on the hunt for gold foil decal paper and a special process. We'll see if there is anything I can find that might make these decals look close to original.

As for this Universal according to Ted's new Typewriter Database (http://www.typewriterdatabase.com) this machine was made between 1936 and 1937. Of course, the deco lines give it away instantly. 

The Universal was one of two new typewriters in the Typemaster line. A more enclosed case made for a safer machine and  reduced dust problems. The more enclosed machine also allowed for an increase in the sound-deadening material; a claim made in period advertising.

On a final note, the difference between a Champion and a Universal in these 1937 models? It's the paint and a tabulator. Universals are crinkle paint with no tabulator. Champions are gloss paint with a tabulator. Interesting, no?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Restoration: It's a Messy Business Pt. 1

Restoration is one of the fun things about collecting typewriters. You can take something that is a little rough and make it shine. I recently obtained an Underwood Universal and while it looks like it's in descent shape, I think it can look a little better.

In a series of posts I am going to take you step-by-step through the restoration process that I use to make this typewriter look awesome.

Let's start by looking at this particular Underwood Universal:

Part of the challenge for this restoration is the decal touch-up. I have a few new techniques I am going to try. I look forward to sharing all my tips and secrets with everyone in the Typosphere.

Next: Evaluation

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Click, Clack, Moo: Typewriters at Play

Before the holiday I received an email from a co-worker about a special event hosted by the ASCC (Association for Supportive Child Care). The ASCC provides support to childcare providers and parents in Arizona. Yearly, the ASCC hosts a special event called Children at Play. A reception is held where children can participate in various activities related to a children's play produced by a local children's theater. Following the reception the children have a chance to view the play. This year, the play is based on a modern classic; "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type."

If you have never read Doreen Cronin's Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type you are missing out on a really sweet children's story. Farmer Brown's cows find an old typewriter in the barn. Shortly after that missives listing various demands are found tacked to the barn door. Hilarity ensues.

I went to the web site to find out more about the event. As I read I started to think. I thought it would be nice to offer ASCC the use of several of my typewriters for their event. That is if they wanted them. I sent an email message and got a call right away. I guess the ASCC had been looking for typewriters, but were unable to find any to use. Well, I told them that I have more than a few typewriters and I would be happy to lend them. They accepted and now I have to gather a selection of typewriters that little kids can use. If anyone has any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.

If you live in the valley and have kids this might be a fun family activity. More importantly, it will be a wonderful way of introducing young people to the exciting world of manual typewriters.

More information form the ASCC web site (click on the pic below to be taken to the site):

The Association for Supportive Child Care invites you to join us for our Annual Children at Play! Event, Saturday, February 2, 2013.

The Tempe Center for the Arts provides a picturesque backdrop as children and adults engage in a day of play. The event begins with a children’s reception featuring story telling, face-painting, science and crafts, close encounters with gentle animal friends – and much more!

Following the reception, families will enjoy an adaptation of the children's story,
"Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type," performed by Childsplay.

Proceeds from this event benefit the programs of the Association for Supportive Child Care which continue our mission to enhance the quality of care for Arizona's children.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The intersection of a Venn Diagram that contains the sets "TYPEWRITERS" and "BOATS" would contain the following images:

By way of Rob

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Behind the Iron Curtain

“I would erect a monument to the typewriter …” Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky

Vaclav Havel,
architect of Charter 77
The often mysterious world of Czechoslovakian typewriters has been covered by Will Davis in ETCetera No. 79. As Will said in the introduction to that story, little is known about Zbrojovka Brno's typewriter endeavors–even with the benefit of the Internet. Language is an obvious gulf, but without a collector in former Czechoslovakia I think that the typewriter side of the Consul story will remain a mystery. 

But digging and searching did reveal some interesting things about typewriters and Czechoslovakia. The story takes us behind the Iron Curtain back all the way to 1977 where a group of Romanian academics, artists, and politically-minded young people drafted a document to protest the state-ordered harassment of a Czech rock band called Plastic People of the Universe. The original charter, no doubt tapped out on state-made Consul typewriters, was a sign to the Communist leadership that Czechoslovakia was still a place where debate on the future of the country would take place. Any person that signed their name to the Charter 77 marked themselves for police harassment and intimidation. Future president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel was one of the signatories and went to prison for his beliefs. His Wife Olga would clandestinely type various Charter 77 documents and distribute them to member of the Communist opposition. 
 Illegal Czech samizdat
Communism created a typewriter culture in Czechoslovakia. While publication of books without approval through the state censors was forbidden, manuscripts, monographs, and short stories were not illegal per se. Obviously, if the content was anti-state and it became widely known that you were participating in seditious activities, you could be arrested. But if you hand-typed your work, bound it, and signed the front you were merely distributing a manuscript. It was a tenuous precaution against being accused of spreading unauthorized publications, but it worked. Thousands of publications of Czech samizdat (Russian for self-published) were typed and distributed in a network of underground manuscript-sharing.

The Typospherian in me loves that so much bad was undermined by the typewriter. In reality it could have just as easily been pens and pencils or Facebook and Twitter (as seen in the Arab Spring), but I am unwilling to let the typewriter miss the laurel because of a trick of time. 

The typewriter was the tool of revolution. But I would argue that typewriters are very often symbols of revolution–or at least of independent thought. If you read about the power that the typewriter had in countries like Czechoslovakia, Bukovsky's statement makes sense. So often Americans cite corruption in the Communist system, the prowess of Western markets, or Ronald Reagan as to why Communist countries went through political upheaval in the late 1980s. None of these things mattered. Cruel regimes exist regardless of political climates, economic conditions, or the beliefs of old men. The women and men who were the cause of change and the typewriter was their agent. So, it is more fitting than anything that the typewriter should receive the accolade as acolyte of revolution.

So, where does my little Consul come in? Probably nowhere. I am fairly certain it was intended for the American market. It is unremarkable as any other Consul 232.

This particular example, however, does have a very nice paint finish.

As portables go, it has some interesting features like this stop to prevent the carriage return lever from marring the body while in-transit.

It types nicely even if the top row of keys has an extreme angle compared to the bottom row. It's not noticeable in the pictures, but when you type you can feel it. 

To end my meander, I wonder what a monument to the typewriter would look like? Pillars and marble? Steel and concrete? No. The real monument to the power of the typewriter is everywhere. It's in the word of Charter 77, illegal student samizadt, even in Richard's Typewriter Insurgency.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

2012 proved to be a fantastic year for typewriters. I hope to do my small part in making 2013 another great typewriter year. I also wanted to take a moment and and thank all the people who have worked to make the CTP and my tiny corner of the Typosphere so rich. I could never have dreamed that this blog, the Typosphere, and the CTP were even possible.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chip, Rona, and a Good Companion

I have a story to tell about Communists, New Zealand, and a clandestine typewriter. While I might be stepping on toes here, I think that the ever-gracious Mr. Messenger will allow me to dabble in some southern-hemisphere typewriter antics.

Sidney Holland
The distance of Australia and New Zealand from traditional markets made shipping a vital part of their economic growth. It’s no surprise, then that the New Zealand waterfront became the locus of working-condition conflict. During WWII, labor shortages required that dock workers take on longer shifts; upwards of 15 hours a day. Anger at the situation was brought before the Arbitration Court of New Zealand and workers who were involved in the arbitration system were awarded a 15% wage increase. This did not apply to dock workers because their employment was controlled by a different governmental organization. Instead dock workers were awarded a 9% wage increase and among the rank-and-file this was seen as a slight for the vital service they offered to Kiwis.

In retribution, the waterfront workers refused to work overtime. Employers locked them out.

The center-right First National Government, led by Sidney Holland, called in the Army and Navy in to work the docks. An election was called in 1951 in an effort to capitalize on the national disapproval of the dockworkers actions. Emergency Regulations were enacted that significantly curtailed civic liberties and criminalized material support to watersiders. These regulations also made it a crime to write anything in support of the movement.

Rona Bailey
This did not stop Chip Bailey and his wife Rona Bailey from breaking the law and secretly writing pamphlets and articles in support of the watersiders.

Bailey and his wife were well-known in the New Zealand labor movement. Rona has been described as the ‘high priestess’ of Kiwi communism by a later New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. Chip was an ardent supporter of labor and—for a while—was purged from the party’s roll because he followed his own beliefs.

These two were not about to follow Holland’s dictum. They were going to fight for what they thought was right.

The Bailey Imperial at The Museum of New Zealand
It was on an Imperial Good Companion that the Baileys would write their pamphlets and political pieces. The couple were responsible for most of the illegal pro-union writing circulated around Wellington, their hometown. Often they would have to deliver these papers in the dead of night so as to not be caught.

Craftily hiding the unlicensed typewriter somewhere in their flat (history is mum on the location), they avoided being caught until the Gestetner mimeograph they were using to make duplicates was discovered in a police raid. They were fined 15 pounds for the possession of an unregistered printing machine. This would have been about ½ a week’s salary in 1950s New Zealand.

Chip Bailey
The Bailey’s weapon in the battle for labor rights was an Imperial Good Companion.

Chip passed away early in the 1960s. Rona continued to fight for her beliefs until she passed in 2005. However, Rona's later activism was less typewriter-centric. She used her love of dance as a way to fight for human rights. She was particularly active in anti-Apartheid movements.

The Good Companion, made by Leicester firm Imperial, was an immensely popular machine and I could go on and on about them, but Robert has already covered this ground which I suggest you read.

Typewriters often play an important role in political struggles. Ideas can change history, but ideas and typewriters can really get things going.